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Help Guide

About Rights and Access

Chicago Collections does not provide legal advice on questions of copyright and does not grant or deny permissions to publish or distribute items from our members' collections. Written permission of copyright owners or other rights holders is required for distribution, reproduction or other uses of copyrighted material beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. 

Copyright law exists to balance the right of creators to be compensated for their work and the right of the public to use the work without seeking permission or paying penalties. A copyright holder can control the use of copyrighted material except under specific situations outlined in Title 17 of the U.S. Code.

One of these exceptions, referred to as “Fair Use,” allows the use of copyrighted material for teaching, scholarship or research.  If you’re writing a paper for school or using the image for teaching, it likely does not infringe on the owner’s rights under U.S. Copyright Law.  If sharing a digital reproduction, it’s best if you limit the access to the class through a password-protected course system through your school or library. 

For more on copyright visit Purdue University's Copyright Overview

Determining Rights & Use

Before sharing copies of documents, maps, images, etc, check the catalog record and visit the website of the institution that owns the item or ask a librarian or archivist if there is information on rights of use for the material.  The institution that owns an item may or may not own rights to material in its collections but may be able to direct you to the copyright holder.  

Some collections have special instructions for how a collection may be used. These kinds of notes appear in catalog records and/or finding aids

Example from Catalog Record

Example from Finding Aid